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Team Matters Most, But Bergeron Honored to be Selke Finalist Once Again

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - Patrice Bergeron has earned his reputation as one of the top defensive forwards in the game.

Once labeled "underrated," the 29-year-old Bruins' alternate captain has received plenty of recognition for his efforts both on and off the ice in recent years.

That's why it came as no surprise when he was announced on Wednesday night as one of three finalists for the 2015 Frank J. Selke Trophy, annually awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." The same trio as 2014 is in the running, with Bergeron joining the LA Kings' Anze Kopitar and Chicago's Jonathan Toews as a finalist.

"It's definitely an honor, just to be part of a group like Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews is always something great," Bergeron told BostonBruins.com "When you do receive awards like that, or nominations, it always goes to your teammates and linemates, so I've got to be thankful to them. But at the same time, I'd much rather be playing right now, than be nominated for an individual award."

This marks Bergeron's fourth straight nomination. He won the Selke in 2014 following a Presidents' Trophy campaign for the Bruins, in which he put up 30 goals for the second time in his career. He was also awarded the honor in 2012 and finished as a runner-up to Toews in 2013.

Bergeron could become the fifth player to earn the trophy three times since it was first handed out 1977-78.

"I mean, right now, it’s hard just to watch some hockey," Bergeron admitted to reporters gathered in the Bruins' locker room at TD Garden on Thursday morning. "It definitely hurts."

Bergeron had last been available to media during the team's season-ending interviews on April 13. Even 10 days had not lessened the blow of missing the postseason, and receiving the nomination did not seem to lessen the blow, either.

"I’ve always said that it’s always about the team and individual awards don’t really matter, so I can’t be standing here and say that it helps [to get recognition], I guess, after a year like we’ve had," he said. "So it’s an honor, I’m definitely not going to say otherwise, but I definitely would rather be in the playoffs right now."

In fact, Bergeron had not been dialed in to when the finalists were being announced. The NHL is parceling out the announcements, and the Selke nominations were disclosed Wednesday on NBCSN in the lead-up to Game 4 of Penguins-Rangers.

"I wasn't really thinking about that, to be honest with you. I got a text from [Bruins VP of Communications and Content] Matt Chmura and to be honest, I had no idea," Bergeron said, on how he received the news. "I didn't know it was [Wednesday] that they were naming the Selke nominations, so you know, I'll take it for sure."

"Like I said, it's an honor, but I wasn't really thinking about it."

Bergeron isn't one for individual accomplishments - he never will be.

But he's received - and earned - a myriad of them, including two Selkes, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership, the NHL Foundation Award, an All-Star nod, and let's not forget that he was on the cover of the EA Sports NHL 15 video game after winning the NHL Cover Vote last year.

"It always speaks about the way that your team helps you and by the way that you're trying to play the game," said Bergeron. "And for myself, I take a lot of pride in my two-way game."

The commitment to his two-way style has earned him the awards and recognition.

The Selke is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Ballots were submitted at the end of the 2014-15 regular season, with the top three vote-getter designated as finalists. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 24.

Reporters, fans, fellow players, coaches, managers, scouts - and anyone else who watches Bergeron play - all see his tireless effort consistently displayed throughout an entire game, in all three zones.

He faces the toughest competition and earns the toughest assignments against opponents' top lines.

"I'm always trying to play a two-way game and to play the best I can and this year was definitely, for everyone, it wasn't our best year and so it's myself included," Bergeron insisted. "But at the same time, I'm definitely trying to leave everything on the ice every time I step out there and I felt like I've done that for sure."

The center finished the season as the NHL's top performer in the faceoff circle, leading the field in faceoff winning percentage (60.2 percent), marking the second time in three seasons he's finished atop the League.

He also led the League in total draws taken (1,951) and in total faceoff wins for the second straight season with 1,175 (he won 1,015 in 2013-14).

Bergeron's 31 faceoff wins on Feb. 22, 2015 against the Vancouver Canucks was the most by any player this season and the most by a Bruin since the stat became available through the NHL scoring system in 1998.

"I don't know," he smiled shyly, when asked of his secret to success on the dot. "I think a lot of it goes to tendencies and knowing what the other centermen are doing around the League and trying to adjust and find out ways to counter that - and a lot of help from my defensemen and wingers to win the draws for me."

With injuries throughout the season to David Krejci, Bergeron's faceoff prowess was made even more apparent. Add in the injury to Zdeno Chara, and Bergeron's defensive responsibility was heavily relied upon.

"It was definitely a first this year, that the amount of faceoffs that I was taking," he said. "I wouldn't say overall, but more in my zone, in the defensive zone, I was taking a lot and really starting a lot of my shifts there - which is fine, because that's definitely something I like to do, and it's a good challenge to go back on the offense and try to create some offense out of it."

The center starts most of his shifts in the defensive zone. Just 45.5 percent of his even-strength shifts in 2014-15 began in the attacking zone, with 50.6 percent of those shifts ending in the attacking zone (stats from behindthenet.ca).

"But it was definitely different when David went down and even when Dave was playing the wing with me, that's definitely something that I had to do more, sometimes taking draws also for other lines," said Bergeron.

"But at the end of the day, it's part of my job and I have to do it to the fullest and make sure I win the faceoffs when I'm asked to do that."

Despite his 200-foot game, and a down year all-around for the Bruins, Bergeron still put up 23 goals and led the team in points (55) and shots (234).

As he winds down for a long offseason, the center will be bouncing back and forth between Boston and his home in Quebec. Bergeron hasn't had a summer like this is a long time, with Stanley Cup Finals, playoff runs and the Olympics naturally wearing on him. He'll use every ounce of it.

"Try to rest and workout as much as possible, and be ready for September," he said.

This summer will be different than others for Bergeron, and not just because of the length. With Peter Chiarelli relieved of his duties as general manager on April 15, there will already be at least one change when he returns in September for training camp.

Bergeron texted Chiarelli and wished him all the best. As a player, he doesn't have control over what happens from the business aspect.

"It’s definitely out of my control, but I have full confidence and support in what [decisions] the upper management will make," he said.

While that plays out, Bergeron will stay focused on his offseason work. That may include earning an award in June in Vegas, where would graciously accept it, and then return his energy to preparing for the upcoming season.

"We didn't play to our expectations as players, and you know, I think everyone would say the same thing, individually, and when that happens, it's tough to play a good team game and playing solid and being good overall," said Bergeron. "So that's definitely the first thing that I would say, is that we all need to be better next year."

"I still believe in this group. I still believe in the players we have. I think as players this year, we all underperformed and when you do that, it's hard to have success as a team, so we all need to have a good summer and really regroup and make sure we come back stronger next year."

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